ATLANTA — At the home of WSB-TV in Midtown Atlanta, step off the elevator on the third floor and take a left.
Down the hall is the wall of fame, featuring portraits of the city’s finest broadcast journalists of today and yesterday.
But there is one who did the station and a people very proud long before there was a wall.
A person who led the way so others could follow.
“No one in that day and time wanted to see her succeed,” Channel 2 anchor Karyn Greer said.
Greer was in the 5th grade when the face of Atlanta TV news changed forever.
“It wasn’t just that she was Black. But she was a Black woman,” Greer said.
It was July of 1973.
Atlanta’s very first African American news anchor is on the air.
She is Jocelyn Dorsey.
[SPECIAL SECTION: WSB-TV Celebrates 75 Years]
“I grew up in Cincinnati,” Dorsey said.
She attended Ohio State University and pursued a career in broadcasting.
“I enjoyed the stories. I enjoyed digging for the stories,” Dorsey said.
At the age of 23, she landed a job with the number one news station in the south.
“Boy. It was a culture shock,” Dorsey said.
“As a journalist I’ve been verbally threatened,” said WSB Vice President and General Manager Ray Carter. “I’ve never had death threats. I never had anyone spit at me. Jocelyn faced all of that.”
All of the racism and all of the sexism.
“And she would not back down,” Carter said.
“Everybody was looking to judge you. I was always put on the spot,” Dorsey said.
And she was sent into the fire.
She covered segregationist J.B. Stoner’s campaign for Georgia governor.
“I walked in, and it was an uproar. It was as if I started a riot. People were yelling, get the ‘n’ out of here,” Dorsey said.
Then there was businessman Burt Lance’s campaign.
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A news conference was held at a private country club that would not allow Blacks to enter through the front door.
“I think they want you to go around to the back door. I said absolutely not. Go get Burt Lance. I’m not going to the back door. He came to the front door and apologized. Nowadays it’d be a news story, right? Then — it wasn’t,” Dorsey said.
Even some in the Black community were slow to accept her.
After all, she was from up north.
“They felt as if I knew nothing of Black culture, and certainly nothing about Atlanta Black culture. So, I caught it both ways,” Jocelyn said. But she never let up.
“I wanted to prove to the newsroom internally - and the community externally — that we were good at what we did and we were just as good as any white journalist,” Dorsey said.
“Anything that was going on, she was there,” Ambassador Andrew Young said.
He met Dorsey during his first run for Congress.
“It was very important to be able to see somebody that looks like you,” Young said. But how she looked, and more specifically how her hair looked, brought out the bigots.
“The calls were unreal. Some callers said that my hair looked like a Brillo pad,” Dorsey said. Some managers asked her to get rid of the afro. She refused.
“The way my hair looks is the way my hair is, and I’m not gonna change it,” Dorsey said.
She went on to cover Atlanta’s biggest stories.
She showed us photos in an album.
“This is me with my afro and this is Atlanta’s first Black mayor, Maynard Jackson,” she said.
There was a photo with the new home run king, Hank Aaron.
“He reminded me so much of my dad,” she said.
Another picture was with the newly-elected president from Plains.
“Of course this is Jimmy Carter,” Dorsey said.
And the civil rights icon.
“She was my second mother. This is Mrs. Coretta Scott King, of course,” Dorsey said.
She won all the broadcasting awards.
Proclamations were issued in her honor.
But what touched her heart the most was meeting so many Atlanta moms who watched her on Channel 2 and named their daughters Jocelyn.
“It was really humbling to think people would think that much of you to name their kids after you,” Dorsey said.
And at the home of WSB-TV in Midtown, the wall of fame is one of diversity and inclusion.
The one who helped pave the way has a much-deserved place of distinction.
“When I look at that wall now, I look at Jocelyn and know none of this would be possible without her,” Greer said.
“We throw the word ‘legend’ around a lot. This is a legendary journalist,” Carter said.
“And the fact that we’re bragging about her after 50 years is probably a good indication of that,” Ambassador Young said.
Dorsey says it sometimes felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders, but she carried the load.
“I felt that because I was in that position, I needed to prove we could do the job and do it well. Because I knew there were other people who may come behind me. And if I failed, it could be the whole race that failed,” Dorsey said.
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